Being a CDPAP caregiver can be emotionally, financially, and physically challenging. Without the right solutions, caregivers can develop their own medical and psychological problems.
In this article, we highlight the main issues that a lot of caregivers go through, alongside ideas on how to handle them in a manner that makes life easier for yourself and your sick family member or friend.
Here are some common challenges that a lot of caretakers have to deal with:
Being a caregiver can distract you from your responsibilities, including work, self-care, and social activities. Many caregivers who find free time end up spending it on chores or other responsibilities.
All of this becomes even more challenging because it can cause a great deal of stress.
Needless to say, worrying about a loved one’s health is, in itself, very emotionally draining. The mere sight of a parent, child, or close friend in a wheelchair or hospital bed can unleash plenty of negative emotions.
Caregivers may also go through emotional stress due to the lack of social or familial interactions. Neglecting personal obligations (such as helping your children with homework or doing chores) creates additional stress.
Therefore, it is not a surprise that the level of stress hormones is 23% higher amongst caregivers. Similarly, their immune system produces 15% less antibodies that fight off diseases than the average person, which can lead to physical problems.
Helping a loved one shop for food, cooking them meals, and pushing a wheelchair for long hours (to name a few examples) can be exhausting.
- Well over half (58%) of caregivers say that they developed worse eating habits after becoming a caregiver.
- Chronic medical issues, such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, are common amongst 45% of caregivers.
- About one out of ten caregivers saw their health decline or went through physical stress since they started helping their loved one.
Maintaining your well-being is especially challenging when you can barely find time to yourself, to begin with.
Lack of Privacy
Going to work, taking care of a sick loved one, and fulfilling your regular daily obligations can mean that you barely have any privacy.
Similarly, being available whenever you’re needed makes it difficult to control your own schedule and day-to-day activities, which might impact your job duties.
Caregivers may have to work less hours (and therefore, make less money) in order to attend to a sick loved one’s needs.
In the same vein, if a family member cannot work due to their illness, you might need to support them financially. This is certainly more difficult if you used to rely on their income to cover household expenses.
Above all, helping someone cover their medical bills can cause a great deal of financial strain. That worry, in of itself, can cause you to lose sleep at night.
Alongside stress, the following situations may negatively impact your sleep while you care for your sick loved one:
- Having to sleep on their couch for several days or weeks in a row.
- Waking up in the middle of the night to give your loved one their medication on schedule.
- Staying in the hospital or emergency room during late hours, especially when you have to wake up early the next day for work or school.
Getting a good amount of sleep is even more difficult when you’re the only one who’s caring for the sick family member or friend.
Being Afraid to Ask for Help
Many caregivers don’t like to ask for help. This could be due to several reasons, such as the caregiver feeling guilty about burdening others with the responsibility.
When caregivers can’t openly talk about their personal or familial health matters, it prevents them from seeking help when they need it and creates a sense of isolation.
Feelings of Depression and Isolation
About 40% to 70% of caregivers suffer from depression. Your friends and relatives might find it hard to understand what you’re going through if they haven’t been in the role of a caregiver before.
Similarly, many caretakers feel guilty when they have to talk about stress, the lack of privacy, or financial issues with a sick person. It can make the latter feel that these problems are their fault.
Feeling Guilty or Constantly Worried
Guilt and worry are two very common emotions that caregivers have to deal with. Here are a few examples of issues that can cause this:
- Feeling that you’re not doing enough to help your loved one, such as when you have to leave them alone to go to work.
- Not being able to offer the needed (or any) financial support.
- Constantly worrying about losing the person that you’re caring for, especially when they’re your parent or child.
caregiver problem statistics
Demographics: The majority of caregivers (82%) care for one other adult, while 15% care for 2 adults, and 3% for 3 or more adults.
Age-based Caregiving: 24.4% of adults aged 45 to 64 years are caregivers compared to 18.8% of adults aged 65 years and older.
Health Impact: An estimated 17-35% of family caregivers view their health as fair to poor. Higher hour caregivers are even more likely to rate their health as poor.
Economic Impact: Caregivers provide an estimated $470 billion in free labor each year.
Mental Health Impact: 32.9% of unpaid caregivers have reported mental or behavioral health problems such as anxiety, depression, or substance use.
Physical Health Impact: 23% of family caregivers report that caregiving has negatively affected their physical health.
Prevalence of Caregiver Burden: The prevalence of caregiver burden in studies was reported to be between 23.0%–59.2%.
Public Health Issue: Caregiving is an important public health issue because it affects the quality of life for millions of people.
Caregiving Services: In 2018, 74% of U.S. caregivers provided select living assistance or home health services.
Hours Per Day: Caregivers in the U.S. spend an average of 55% of their day providing care.
These statistics highlight the significant challenges faced by caregivers, including impacts on their physical and mental health, the economic value of their unpaid labor, and the overall prevalence of caregiver burden.
How to Handle Caregiver Problems
While being a caregiver is very demanding, it doesn’t always need to be this way. Below are a few ways that can help you handle the challenges that we outlined.
First of all, it is important to accept help when you need it, whether it’s from a family member, friend, or even a neighbor.
Having someone assist you with cooking meals at certain times or days and designating nights for them to spend with the patient can go a long way. For a start, it allows you to manage your time, catch up on sleep, and take care of personal errands.
Join a support group
Here are a few of the benefits to joining a support group:
- Learning new ways to manage your time, stress, and personal wellbeing from those who are more experienced at caregiving.
- Making new friends that you can relate to and, if needed, rely on for help.
- Establishing clear and probable expectations, which is particularly important to new caregivers.
Set realistic goals
Setting professional and financial goals for yourself is crucial. As an example, you should figure out how many hours you can realistically work while caring for someone. After that, set financial goals based on how much money you can expect to make.
Similarly, think about what you want to help the person you’re caring for achieve. For instance, how many nights a week can you cook dinner for them? On which days will you do the chores? When can you expect your sick loved one’s health to get better?
Set personal health goals
You can’t take care of someone else without being healthy yourself.
Here are a few questions that caregivers could ask themselves while they set their personal health goals:
- How many home-made meals do you expect to cook per day or week?
- On which days will you be able to exercise without sacrificing your ill loved one’s needs?
- How will you determine that you lost/gained too much weight?
- When do you expect to see your own doctor and how often can you do so?
Discuss it with your doctor
Unfortunately, 72% of caregivers believe that they don’t see their doctor as often as they should.
This is crucial because your health care provider can identify and address minor medical issues that result from not eating or sleeping well.
Seeing your doctor also helps you avoid chronic health problems that many caregivers suffer from.
Get paid to work as a family member of caregiver
There is one obvious problem that we didn’t highlight: Caregivers don’t get paid.
Resolving this issue can make it much easier for caregivers to handle most (or all) of the challenges that we discussed above.
CDPAP (the Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program) is a New York State Medicaid program that allows patients to choose and pay their personal caregiver, including friends and family members.
Above all, this comes at no-cost to the patient! Sign up today and have our fiscal intermediary give personal caregivers the pay that they deserve!